Two independent sets of imagery when combined, the statue represents Krishna playing on his flute seated on the top of Mount Govardhana close to a tree symbolic of the mythical Kadamba, and hearing the melody emitting from his flute the cows are drawn to him. Not a narration or moving episode, even a static picture with such wider dimensions : any number of cows, Mount Govardhana along with the image of Krishna in ‘tri-bhanga’ or ‘utkut akasana’ playing on his flute and the Kadamba tree, a Pichhawai or a painting could paint it in full but a wooden plaque with 5-6 inches thickness and limited breadth could not. A rare application of mind, the wood-carver used the plaque’s verticality – length, the only dimension usable with some degree of freedom, for portraying the picture in full by dividing it into two parts, in one highlighting Krishna’s image and cow, and in the other, Mount Govardhana and the Kadamba, other aspects being subdued. The artifact is thus a rare example of illustrating the stretch of a single act or static picture, not an act or episode occurring in a series, using technique of serializing a theme into steps.
The upper compartment portrays Lord Krishna playing enrapt on his flute. Though he is himself producing it, its melody seems to melt into his blood twisting every part of his body into divine rhythm making his figure curve triply giving his posture a three-curved – ‘tri-bhanga’ form. Hearing the melody a cow, symbolic of all cows of Vraja, rushes to him and enrapt looked at his face. Mystically interpreted, the cow represents the individual self separated from the Supreme Self that Krishna manifests. Completely devoted to him the cow is yearning to re-unite. Mystically with his three curves he is believed to pervade all three cosmic regions or universes. The image of Krishna along with the figure of cow, conjointly the individual self and the Supreme Self, enshrine a floral arch : ‘prabhavali’, symbolic of the manifest universe that the individual self occupies and the Supreme Self pervades.
The bottom compartment represents a smaller form of Krishna playing on his flute. Now ‘utkut akasana’, a sitting posture, has replaced ‘tri-bhanga’, his posture in upper compartment. He has been represented as seated on the top of the pile of identical rocks obviously symbolising Mount Govardhana. Just adjacent to the Mount on its back there seem to be seated a pair of cows with their faces turned into diagonally opposite directions. Further behind the cows there stands a large tree with branches extending from one edge to the other. With a round face revealing a child’s face-like tenderness and innocence, golden complexion, a potted belly as children usually have and a tassel of peacock feather the iconography of Krishna appears to be decisively influenced by Krishna’s Tanjore image. The artist has used a set of mouldings carved with conventionalized lotus patterns for the base and a lotus moulding for divining the two compartments of the artifact.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.